For over two decades we have supported individuals in their careers by sharing our specialist market insight and knowledge.
In the following interview, Ricky Angell, Senior Executive Consultant in our Education Finance team, discusses his experience in this sector and the current market.
What would a career in Education Finance offer to a successful candidate?
There are clear lines of professional development in this sector; roles are generally graded, so as you gain more experience, you move up the salary bands and can take on greater responsibility. The benefit of working for organisations with education at their centre is that there are great opportunities for study support packages which will further your professional development.
Many candidates take huge pride in working for organisations that are contributing to the community through the development of children and young adults, alongside being part of one of the best education systems in the world. It's also worth noting the holiday entitlement and the pension contribution are generous in the Education sector.
What are the challenges the sector faces and the current recruitment trends?
The primary and secondary state schools do not always have the flexibility to match the funding in the commercial world, which can be a challenge for recruitment. In higher education, the current challenge is sourcing candidates with the specific skills and knowledge required to manage research grants, for which there is a high demand; each university benefactor will have terms and conditions about how their funds should be used and reported, so correct compliance is vital and requires a lot of knowledge about that particular funder and their requirements.
How might someone enter into a career in Education Finance?
It will be important to develop the necessary skills through a professional qualification, so you either need to be currently working towards one or demonstrate the intent and enthusiasm to take one on when you start. The three most recognized accounting qualifications are ACA, ACCA and CIMA. The latter is tailored towards practice accountancy, and additionally AAT may be more relevant to junior roles. There are also a number of entry-level jobs which offer apprenticeships, so that would be a good route for recent school or college leavers.
What opportunities are there for progression within this sector?
With universities in particular, your progression route will depend on whether you want to work in management accounting or financial accounting. For example, with the former, you would usually start as an Assistant Management Accountant with a clear direction towards being a Management Accountant and then a Finance Manager or Finance Business Partner. At this stage you could be responsible for a particular school within the university or an area of finance such as student fees. Financial Accounting is more specific as you will be completing day-to-day financial reports and ensuring strong controls are in place, ultimately working towards becoming a Financial Controller.
What skills and characteristics are employers looking for on a CV that would make a candidate stand out?
Managing budgets is a skill required across most of Education Finance; any experience within budgeting, forecasting and managing expenditure will be important to highlight on your CV. Evidence of effective communication is also a key asset, because you are working alongside non-finance staff and will need to be clear and concise in explaining how the budget should be used and reported.
What advice do you give a candidate before interviewing for a role?
If you’re interviewing at a school, read their most recent OFSTED report in advance to prepare questions around their operations and performance. If it’s an interview for a multi-academy trust, ask to clarify your level of involvement across the different schools. There are a number of questions that would be good to ask for further education: Which courses are popular? Where does the funding come from? What makes a successful course provider?
A lot of universities are big research organisations engaged in various projects, so you could ask about a particular department, what they’re specializing in and how the research is progressing. Some, such as Oxford and Cambridge, are renowned historic institutions, so demonstrating a genuine enthusiasm to support their work can go a long way at interview.
Why do you recruit for Education Finance?
I particularly enjoy working with primary, secondary and some of the smaller establishments, as they frequently like to attract open, friendly and can-do individuals who want to get stuck in. It’s also rewarding to know I’m supporting organisations dedicated to helping develop children and young adults.
There’s also great variety within higher education research; one department may be developing a new medicine while another could be working towards a future technology. The criteria and complexities within the funding changes from job to job, so there are always new challenges to keep the recruitment process exciting.
To discuss your recruitment or career plans within Education Finance, email Ricky at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01908 295 000.